Taking On The Press By Melvyn Bernard Zerman, "Helpfulness To The Student Journalist"

2978 words - 12 pages

Helpfulness to Student JournalistZerman's Taking on the Press is a must read for all student journalists. This text discusses the conflict between the first amendment rights of the press and those of individuals and of the government, using well-known cases to demonstrate how delicately these rights are balanced. Zerman provides a history of the struggles of the press to retain their freedoms, from as far back as 1476 where a license had been required in England to print anything at all (10), all the way up to recent times where journalists still fight for the freedom to tell the public about what is going on.Zerman begins his text by telling the story of young Charlie Quarterman, a ...view middle of the document...

Zerman's text is inspiring to student journalists, as it explains that the rules to journalism are not set in stone, and they always have a chance to fight for their First Amendment right.Concepts Learned1. The Right to Rummage - Zurcher v. Stanford Daily.In 1971, sit-ins and were not as popular as they were in the sixties, but student activists marched on Stanford University Hospital in April of that year to protest the firing of a black janitor anyway (66). The only paper that really bothered to cover the event was the Stanford Daily, and it was mostly students that read it. When the police arrived to dispel the activists, Stanford Daily photographers were there to cover the violence that erupted. In the end, nine police officers and numerous students had been injured. It was impossible to tell who had struck who with which rock in the frenzy, so it was impossible for police to determine their culprits. An idea struck them: Hadn't photographers been at the scene? Maybe the evidence they needed had been caught on film. Three days after the sit in, police burst into the Stanford Daily newsroom with a search warrant and began rifling through the place. They looked through filing cabinets, wastebaskets, and desks and found rolls upon rolls of film, yet they came away with nothing helpful. Only a damage suit filed by student editors (67).Students argued that because they had not been suspected of a crime, law enforcement officials should have issued a subpoena for the evidence they wanted, not raid their offices unannounced with a search warrant. If a search warrant was all police required to search a newsroom, they "could descend upon a news room and proceed to pore over all sorts of documents that are unrelated to the crime they are investigating" (68). At least a subpoena would require police to explain exactly what evidence they were looking for and why they needed it. Two lower courts sided with the Stanford Daily and awarded them $47,000 in legal fees, but the police appealed to the Supreme Court. They agreed to hear the case.The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Zurcher, the police chief, concluding that "Valid warrants may be issued to search any property . . . at which there is probable cause to believe that fruits, instrumentalities, or evidence of crime may be found (69)." The press was shocked. The decision was called "the most dangerous ruling the Court has made in memory (70)" and many said that the police had been given the "right to rummage." All was not lost, though. A week after the Zurcher ruling, procedures were drawn up limiting federal searches of newsrooms. This became the Privacy Protection Act of 1980, which keeps police from making unannounced searches of newsrooms except in certain circumstances which are: "1) there is reason to believe that the person holding the possible evidence himself committed the crime in question, 2) the immediate seizure of the materials is necessary to prevent death or serious injury, or 3)...

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